By Maria Spitale-Leisk
Brian Robinson’s wildest childhood dream came true last week: the book he wrote is now available for checkout at his old elementary school library in Mission.
Rewind the clock to some 25-odd years ago — and you find Robinson roaming the hallways at West Heights Elementary School. Inside his backpack are creased notebook doodlings of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers.
The amateur animator soon began writing little stories about central characters in his own life, namely his tabby cat.
“I would staple the pages together,” recalls Robinson, from his home in Coquitlam. “I even talked to the librarian at West Heights [elementary] about how to get [my books] into the library.”
The artist of his class, Robinson went on to study computer animation in college. High-profile gigs with Electronic Arts and local film studios soon followed.
Robinson was in heaven.
All the while, an unrelenting pounding in his head would routinely show up unannounced — chronic migraines, inhibiting Robinson from concentrating on his work. After a valiant effort trying to ignore the colossal headaches, it eventually sidelined him from animation.
“That’s the career I always wanted to do,” says Robinson. “It was hard to step away from.”
Now, with nothing but time on his hands, another nagging surfaced: that long-lost goal of becoming a published author.
The storyline played out right in front of him every night when Robinson would put his daughter Brienna to bed.
“If her closet door was open she would say that her clothes looked like monsters,” explains Robinson.
In order to help Brienna conquer her fears, her dad would have to get past his own apprehensions about self-publishing.
The words and illustrations were committed to Robinson’s laptop during pitstops on his way back to Vancouver from Quebec. At one point there was a tornado — the dark clouds providing ominous inspiration for a story about a monster.
Every so often he would check in with Brienna for quality control. The monster he was 3D modelling on his computer had to be the perfect combination of scary and goofy.
Robinson later illustrated ‘Manfred’ the monster by hand, to further challenge himself.
“I’m trying to teach myself that if I face my own fears that they are not going to be as bad as I think they are,” he says.
That mantra appears in his now-published children’s’ book, “Manfred Under the Bed.”
“For a fear that you face is a fear that you beat. You face that big fear; crush it under your feet.”
Manfred is portrayed as a wide-mouthed monster with sharp teeth and matted fur that smells of burnt tires — juxtaposed by a doe-eyed, pyjama-clad Brienna clinging to her teddy bear.
Life came full circle for Robinson when he returned to West Heights last week to read to the West Heights students.
Another fear of his was conquered that day.
“Any kind of public speaking that I have done in front of adults I get nervous; butterflies in my stomach,” says Robinson. “These kids were just so accepting. They said ‘wow he wrote a book and now he is reading to it us.’”
Manfred Under the Bed is available through amazon.ca and Robinson’s website at brian-robinson.com.